Amidst the groundwork for Europe’s Beat Cancer Plan, vaping, electronic cigarettes, and other smoking alternatives have been highlighted as playing a crucial role in tobacco harm reduction. Due to the relationship between tobacco smoking products and cancer, as well as other diseases, the EU parliament has endorsed vaping and e-cigarettes as a harm reduction method to reduce the number of smokers. The decision was made after a review of a report published in late 2021.
The members of the EU parliament introduced this endorsement of vaping and e-cigarettes for tobacco harm reduction (THR) through a vote in December, 2021. The voting tally consisted of 652 members in favour of, 15 against, and 27 in abstention. The vote was ratified February 16, 2022. This will be the first significant move to recognizing vaping as an official means for THR.
The endorsement was based on a number of peer-reviewed studies which concluded that vaping and e-cigarette use is up to 95% less harmful in comparison to traditional methods of smoking. The institutions that conducted the peer-reviews were some of the best found in Europe. Public Health England was one of the health agencies that affirmed these studies.
With 700,000 deaths per year being attributed to smoking-related illness in Europe alone, it is clear that harm reduction has a broader focus than just cancer alone. Looking toward reducing the total number of smokers through vaping, the hope is to massively reduce smoking-related harm.
The Independent European Vape Association (IEVA) President, Dustin Dahlmann, made the following statement on the matter,
“This is a landmark declaration by the European Parliament, which should go a long way to reassuring smokers of the health benefits that a switch to vaping can bring.”
This move should not only reassure smokers looking to opt for a healthier nicotine alternative, but also reduce the amount of scrutiny that the vaping community is placed under.
Why is this an important achievement?
In addition to helping quell the notion that vaping is as harmful as traditional smoking methods, this endorsement will have the potential to have a positive snowball effect amongst other institutions.
“We now encourage the other EU institutions – and in particular, the European Commission – to take this on board and ensure policy follows science, not the other way around,” said Dahlmann.
Being the first elected chamber in the world to endorse vaping in such a way could bring a more united agreement with the benefits of e-cigarettes and vaping. This will be the beginning step to counter the unnecessarily harsh regulations that vaping has been subject to in the past. Moreover, having such a strong correlation with reduction of cancer and other smoking-related illnesses means others will have to begin to accept the benefits of vaping.
What is next for vaping regulations?
Following the decision, the Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA) is calling for the European Commission to conduct an evaluation into vaping, e-cigarettes and other forms of non-traditional tobacco products to determine their possible health risks. While it is clear from the studies that vaping is clearly healthier than smoking overall, the general consensus is that there may still be unknown health implications to be considered.
BECA is being chaired by Bartosz Arlukowicz, with the main task being to provide ways to reduce or eliminate the various contributing factors to cancer rates, effectively increasing the EU’s “resilience against cancer.”
There is still great debate over flavor bans currently. On the one hand, flavors have been blamed for drawing in minors and non-smokers into vaping. However, the benefits of flavors cannot be overshadowed here as they are a hugely important factor of vaping; flavors are crucial for smokers to progressively switch and quit smoking cigarettes.
It is widely believed by pro-vaping organizations that these flavor bans will wildly counter the progress made for tobacco harm reduction through the resultant resurgence of people looking to get their nicotine fix through traditional smoking. “Research into the impact of flavor bans shows that many vapers return to smoking as a result,” Dalhmann states. “This must be prevented. We agree that steps must be taken to curtail inappropriate marketing, while recognizing the crucial role flavors play in helping smokers quit.”
The endorsement of vaping by the EU Parliament is a huge win for the global vaping community. The lower rates of harm associated with vaping and electronic cigarettes has now been officially recognized as a potential way to reduce cancer and other smoking-related illnesses by a highly reputable official institution. This step makes progress in showing that vaping and electronic cigarettes should not be dismissed, but rather praised for their harm reduction capabilities when trying to address the smoking epidemic.
Furthermore, having endorsement from such a prominent parliament such as that of Europe will allow for other institutions globally to follow suit with less setbacks from opposing factions. Having peer-reviewed backing also provides evidence to refute the claims from anti-vaping organizations and regulators.